Biodiversity: decisive step for high seas treaty

Saturday March 4, in the morning, the members of the intergovernmental conference were about to agree around a legal tool for the protection of biodiversity and its sustainable exploitation in international waters.

by Martine Valo

Some no longer believed it. Saturday, March 4, in the morning, at the headquarters of the United Nations (UN), in New York, the members of the Intergovernmental Conference finally seemed to agree: the International Treaty on the High Sea was on the point to be adopted. “I do not think that a solution is not in sight,” said the president of the conference, Rena Lee, a few hours earlier. Too many chapters remained open so that the text was formally stopped during this session, it can only be final once translated into six languages ​​and passed through lawyers, but on the merits, it exists.

After years of preparation, entire sessions of laborious negotiations to debate the slightest comma, and two phases of additional unprepared discussions, the UN thus has a binding legal tool devoted to the conservation of biodiversity navy, but also in its sustainable use. This happy conclusion falls peak while in December 2022, at COP15 for the biodiversity of Montreal, 196 states have promised to protect at least 30 % of the ocean by 2030. This commitment would be vain without the high seas , this gigantic space which extends beyond the 200 nabin miles (370 kilometers from the coast) – that is to say almost half of the area of ​​the globe, which so far lacked a frame to create marine areas protected (Amp).

The high seas is indeed a universal common issue, conceded the lawyers and diplomats engaged in this long process. However, preserving its environment is not the only object of the new treaty. Taking advantage of the “area”, as experts say, is his counterpart, just as important. It is therefore important to set up “a fair and equitable international economic order in which it would be taken into account of the interests and needs of all whole”, and in particular, those of the development states.

A coveted “genetic material”

Over the discussions, the negotiators focused on the rules for sharing the expected profits from the new living resources present in the ocean, as soon as they are outside the water under national jurisdictions. This concerns, specifies the treaty, any “genetic material of plant, animal, microbial”: enzymes, bacteria, viruses and all known molecules and above all remaining to be discovered which interest sectors such as medicine, chemistry, cosmetics in particular. They also worked on the transfer of knowledge and marine techniques for less developed countries, and finally on the need to institute environmental impact studies to support certain sites.

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/Media reports cited above.